Best known for his stunning thriller Gone but Not Forgotten (LJ 8/1/93), Margolin disappoints in this new novel. Wealthy Portland, OR, businessman Lamar Hoyt Sr. is shot to death in his bed. His wife, Ellen Crease, fires upon and kills the shooter. When the forensic scientist studies the photographs of the crime scene, he sees a discrepancy in the blood spatters, which points to Crease's lying about what happened. Her arraignment and bail hearing is before Richard Quinn, an honest, by-the-book judge who is being blackmailed into ruling against Crease. Despite Margolin's storytelling ability, the novel features unadorned prose and is thin on characterization and shallow in plot. The one bright spot here is Mary Garrett, an attorney with a great deal of aplomb and courtroom savvy who should be considered for her own novel soon. For most fiction collections because of demand for the author's books. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/98.]Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-Univ. Heights P.L., OH
A tale of an ill-starred Oregon judge proves itself to be more than the sum of its parts. And thereþs a lesson in that. Create a likable hero, put him on the rack, keep him there with might and main, and such flaws as wooden dialogue and gratuitous twists of plot still wonþt sink your story. Like his legendary father, Richard Quinn is a state supreme court justice, and itþs almost irrelevant that heþs also sweet-natured, since what defines him is his being a man of principle and conscience. Early on, a fellow judge convicted of bribery appears before him for sentencing, and Quinn hits him hard, giving him jail time when no one, including the prosecution, would have frowned at probation. In fact, a strong argumentþand one Quinn sees merit inþcould be made that probation would have been the fitter punishment for the crime. Except that itþs a judge, Quinn says, and a judge must adhere to a higher standard, or whatþs a courtroom for? Soon enough, however, the judge at a moral crossroads is Quinn himself. For reasons he only half understands, malign forces have suddenly focused on him. Willy-nilly, heþs being framed for murder. And blackmailed. And threatened with bodily harm. Thereþs a way out, of course, but it requires breaking the law. The case before him involves powerful people to whom moral codes are the stuff of farce, people who will balk at nothing. If Quinn agrees to preside dishonestly, he can save himself and those he cares for most. But if not, his ruin seems certain. Though this is Margolinþs fifth time out (The Burning Man, 1996, etc.), his prose has gotten no more elegant with practice, but, still,heþll have you rooting for the good Richard Quinn.